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Classification & Qualifications Appeal Decisions

Washington, DC

U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Classification Appeal Decision
Under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code

Ralph R. Buras
Commissary Officer
GS-1144-12
Office of Store Director
Air Force Base Commissary
Central Area/Zone 1
Store Operations Group
Defense Commissary Agency
Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana
Commissary Officer
GS-1144-12
C-1144-12-01

Robert D. Hendler
Classification and Pay Claims
Program Manager
Agency Compliance and Evaluation
Merit System Accountability and Compliance

03/10/2015


Date

As provided in section 511.612 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), this decision constitutes a certificate that is mandatory and binding on all administrative, certifying, payroll, disbursing, and accounting officials of the Government.  The agency is responsible for reviewing its classification decisions for identical, similar, or related positions to ensure consistency with this decision.  There is no right of further appeal.  This decision is subject to discretionary review only under conditions and time limits specified in the Introduction to the Position Classification Standards (Introduction), appendix 4, section G (address provided in appendix 4, section H).

Introduction

On July 16, 2014, OPM’s Dallas Agency Compliance and Evaluation accepted a classification appeal from Mr. Ralph R. Buras.  The appellant’s position is currently classified as Commissary Officer, GS-1144-12, but he believes it should be classified at the GS-13 grade level.  The position is assigned to the Office of Store Director, Air Force Base Commissary, Central Area/Zone 1, Store Operations Group, Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), at Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB), Louisiana.  We received the complete agency’s administrative report (AAR) on September 8, 2014, and the appellant’s comments on the AAR on September 16, 2014.  We have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.).

Background and general issues

The appellant’s position was previously classified as Commissary Officer, GS-1144-13.  The human resources office of DeCA headquarters, in a May 5, 2014, letter notified him that the agency had reviewed the classification of the position and determined it was appropriately classified at the GS-12 grade level.  Effective June 15, 2014, the appellant’s position was downgraded and assigned to official position description (PD) number DS11028.  He, however, asserts the official PDs for his GS-12 and GS-13 positions are identical.  The appellant subsequently filed a classification appeal with OPM, stating in his appeal request to OPM:

For the Position to decrease in grade, I would think that there would be some change in the [PD] that would require the decrease in grade.  There must be something that distinguishes a GS-13 Commissary Officer from a GS-12 Commissary Officer, but I have not been informed what that is.

By law, OPM must classify positions solely by comparing their current duties and responsibilities to the criteria specified in the appropriate OPM position classification standard (PCS) or guide (5 U.S.C. 5106, 5107, and 5112).  The law does not authorize use of other methods, such as comparison to other positions that may or may not have been classified correctly.  Consequently, we cannot compare the appellant’s position to his former position as a basis for deciding his appeal.  In adjudicating this appeal, our responsibility is to make our own independent decision on the proper classification of his position.  Because our decision sets aside all previous agency decisions, any concerns regarding the agency’s evaluation of the classification of his position are not germane to this decision.

The appellant asserts in his appeal request to OPM that, even if his position is properly classified at the GS-12 grade level, the agency should continue classifying the position to the GS-13 grade level until he vacates the position.  Agencies are required by 5 U.S.C. 5107 to place positions under its jurisdiction in the appropriate class or grade and to correct, when necessary, the misclassification of its positions.  Moreover, OPM’s classification appeals authority as provided for in 5 U.S.C. 5112 is narrow and limited to the adjudication of the position’s classification.  The appellant’s disagreement concerning the effective date of an agency’s position classification review is not reviewable under the classification appeals process.

In addition, the appellant states in his appeal request to OPM, “I would also like to point out that the [PCS for the GS-1144 Commissary Management Series] is dated September 1994 and there are some factors that are no longer relevant in the agency such as MINICOMs, Charge Sales and Troop Support.”  Implicit in his statement is that the grading criteria in the GS-1144 PCS are outdated.  However, the adequacy of grade-level criteria in OPM standards is not appealable (5 CFR 511.607).  All OPM General Schedule standards are consistent with the grade level definitions of work established by law.  These definitions are based on the difficulty and responsibility of the work at each grade level and the qualifications required to do the work.

The agency created April 2013 supplemental guidance to the GS-1144 PCS, which was applied by DeCA to evaluate the classification of the appealed position.  Also integral to the appellant’s classification appeal rationale was his citation of the agency supplemental guidance.  All positions subject to the Classification Law contained in title 5, U.S.C., must be classified in conformance with OPM’s published PCSs.  Hence, other methods or factors of evaluation, such as application of agency-developed supplemental classification guidance, which has neither been reviewed or approved by OPM for use, may elucidate the meaning of OPM standards, but may not be used as a substitute for OPM classification standards for classifying positions in the classification appeals process.

Position information

As Commissary Officer for the Barksdale AFB store, the appellant manages all activities and functions of the Commissary which has the full range of departments (e.g., grocery, meat, produce, and management support).  He plans, coordinates, and supervises day-to-day store operations.  This work entails managing store resources; ensuring adequate services are provided to patrons; ensuring performance of quality assurance work; serving as the on-site fund manager; monitoring suggestions for improvement from customers and others and ensuring implementation of adopted ideas; and scheduling and attending community, staff, patron, and other organizational meetings.  The appellant’s position is supervised by the Zone Manager (a GS-1144-14 Supervisory Commissary Management Specialist position), who is responsible for overall management of the ten stores assigned to the zone.

The appellant estimates spending the majority of his time (i.e., 70 percent) supervising the approximately 65 employees assigned to his store.  Through subordinate supervisors and work leaders, he directs and controls all phases of commissary operations to include receiving, inspecting, and storing stock; processing packaging, pricing, displaying, and replenishing of supplies; performing inventories; selling subsistence; receiving money for purchases; using electronic cash registers; verifying receipts and making deposits; and other related functions.  The appellant carries out the full range of supervisory human resources duties such as planning and assigning work; evaluating performance; hearing and resolving complaints; taking disciplinary actions; approving leave; and awarding, developing, and training employees.

The appellant and the Executive Director of the Store Operations Group (his third-level supervisor) certified to the accuracy of the duties described in the PD of record.  This PD and other material of record furnish much more information about the appellant’s duties and responsibilities and how they are performed, and we incorporate it by reference into this decision.  To help decide this appeal, we conducted a telephone audit with the appellant on January 14, 2015, and a telephone interview with the immediate supervisor on February 10, 2015.  In deciding this appeal, we carefully considered all of the information gained from these interviews, as well as the written information furnished by the appellant and his agency, including the PD of record.

Series, title, and standard determination

The agency assigned the appellant’s position to the GS-1144 Commissary Management Series, titled it Commissary Officer (i.e., the title used for positions that have full and final responsibility for managing all activities and functions of a commissary with a full range of departments), and applied the grading criteria in the GS-1144 PCS.  The appellant does not disagree and, after careful review of the record, we concur.

The appellant’s position meets the requirements for coverage and evaluation by the General Schedule Supervisory Guide (GSSG).  The agency did not evaluate his supervisory work by application of the GSSG.  We applied the GSSG to the appellant’s supervisory work and determined that those duties and responsibilities are graded lower than his GS-1144 covered work.  Since his GSSG covered duties are not grade-controlling, we will not discuss them further.

Grade determination

Part I of the PCS contains criteria covering commissary officer positions at grades GS-9 through GS-13; this range represents the performance level typical of the occupation.  The absence of grading criteria for positions at any particular grade level does not preclude evaluation of positions at that grade.  Positions are graded on the basis of their duties and responsibilities, as evaluated in terms of three factors which combine to include the relative complexity and difficulty of the work:  Scope of Operations, Complexity of Operations, and Level of Managerial Responsibility.

The appellant only disagrees with the agency’s evaluation of Factors 1 and 2.  We reviewed the agency’s determination for Factor 3, concur, and have credited the position accordingly.  Our evaluation will focus on the factors contested by the appellant.

Factor 1, Scope of Operations

This factor measures the extent to which the scope of operations, expressed in terms of three elements (i.e., monthly customer transactions, size of sales floor, and weekly hours and days of operation), affects the management of commissaries.  Generally, the larger the commissary, the more difficult and responsible the commissary officer’s duties.

At Level A, the number of monthly transactions totals up to 25,000; the size of the commissary’s total sales floor is up to 1,080 square meters (12,000 square feet); and the commissary is open 5 days per week, up to 46 hours per week.

At Level B, the number of monthly transactions ranges from 25,001 to 50,000; the sales floor ranges in size from 1,081 square meters (12,001 square feet) to 2,250 square meters (25,000 square feet); and the commissary is open 6 days a week, from 42 to 66 hours per week.

At Level C, the number of monthly transactions ranges from 50,001 to 75,000; the sales floor ranges in size from 2,251 square meters (25,001 square feet); to 3,150 square meters (35,000 square feet); and the commissary is open 7 days per week, a minimum of 62 hours per week.

At Level D, the number of monthly transactions ranges from 75,001 and up; the sales floor ranges in size from 3,151 square meters (35,001 square feet) to 4,050 square meters (45,000 square feet); and the commissary is open 7 days a week, a minimum of 70 hours per week.

As part of its AAR to OPM, the agency submitted a completed Commissary Questionnaire that provides the data referenced in the discussion of this and other factors covered by the PCS.  Though the Questionnaire was signed by the Zone Manager on April 9, 2014, the appellant said the data covering the previous 12 months was compiled and confirmed by him at the agency’s request.

Monthly Customer Transactions.  The Questionnaire identifies the Commissary’s number of average monthly transactions as 36,373.  The agency credited the appellant’s position at Level B.

The appellant disagrees with the agency’s evaluation, disputing the timeframe used by the agency to compile sales volume data on the “units sold” element.  In his AAR comments to OPM, he states:

In 2012 we average 1,150,043 units per month.  That’s 50,043 units average a month, more than the standard.  The agency is using sales data from 2013 which we were closed for 11 days of business due to the government furlough/shutdown.  This was an anomaly, 2013 should not be used for sales or item movement.  It is not fair to use 2013 due to the lost 11 days of business.  The year 2012 or a prior year should be used to determine the Units Sold.

“Units sold” is not a classification element covered by the GS-1144 PCS.  Instead, we noted the agency’s supplemental classification standard describes the “units sold” element (distinguishable from the monthly customer transactions) as the number of actual items sold with each item counting as one unit, and in addition provides the range of units sold to be expected at each factor level.  As mentioned previously, we cannot evaluate the appellant’s position using the agency’s supplemental classification standard.  Instead, the GS-1144 PCS measures sales volume by application of the monthly customer transaction element, which is derived from monthly cash transactions averaged over a 12-month period usually on a fiscal year basis.  We considered the data provided by the appellant from calendar years 2010 to 2014 in order to identify and minimize vagaries from furloughs, downsizing, and other actions affecting sales volume.  The Commissary’s average number of monthly customer transactions, by calendar year, follows:

2010:   37,128

2011:   38,483

2012:   39,182

2013:   37,224

2014:   37,473

Thus, we conclude the average number of monthly customer transactions at the Commissary, from 2010 to present, falls within Level B, which credits a commissary with an average of monthly transactions ranging from 25,001 to 50,000.

Size of Sales Floor.  The Questionnaire identifies the size of the Commissary’s major sales departments (grocery, meat, and produce) as 37,361 square feet.  This element meets Level D, which describes the sales floor range as 35,001 to 45,000 square feet.

Weekly Hours and Days of Operation.  The Questionnaire identifies the Commissary as open six days a week for a total of 53 hours excluding its early bird hours.  However, the appellant states his Commissary must “be manned during [early bird] hours as well as having product stocked” and “coverage must be included in the scheduling” of early bird hours, which are typically 7:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

The appellant asserts, by including early bird hours to the weekly hours estimate, his Commissary is open a total of 63 hours instead.  Since Level B is credited to a store open six days a week from 42 to 66 hours per week, further consideration of this point is unnecessary as the inclusion or exclusion of early bird hours would not result in the element being creditable at any other level than Level B.

As directed by the PCS, credit a level when two of the elements are fully met at that level provided that the third element is no more than one increment below that level.  Since two of the elements of the appellant’s position meet Level B and the third meets Level D, Level B is credited for 100 points.

Factor 2, Complexity of Operations

This factor recognizes the level of complexity affecting commissary positions caused by the nature and diversity of operating problems.  The more complex, unpredictable, frequent, and diverse such problems and conditions are, the more they complicate program planning, scheduling and assigning work, modifying or developing procedures for work accomplishment, and other managerial activities of the commissary officer.

At Level A, the commissary is self-contained and there are no supported functions.  The commissary program is limited to basic patron services (i.e., the standard variety of groceries, produce, and fresh meats).  As for operational considerations, up to four of the listed sub-elements are creditable at this level.

At Level B, the commissary operation consists of the main store, plus one of these supported functions:  a warehousing operation, troop issue function, supported facility, or a MINICOM.  In addition to the standard commissary program services typical of Level A and in addition to the supported function, the program at this level is enhanced by at least three additional services such as a fresh fish market, a bakery, and a delicatessen.  Five to eight operational considerations apply to positions at this level.

The appellant’s Commissary consists of the main store and offers additional services such as a delicatessen, bakery, plant sales, and sushi.  The agency credited the appellant’s position at Level A, but he seeks crediting to Level B by asserting his position meets at least five operational considerations as expected at that level.

The PCS identifies 13 operational considerations affecting the complexity of commissary positions.  Of the 13 operational considerations described by the PCS, the agency credited the appellant’s position with meeting sub-element 2.  He, however, seeks to credit his position with also meeting sub-elements 4, 5, 7, and 9.  He does not contest the agency’s evaluation concerning the remaining sub-elements, and we also concur after careful review of the record.  Thus, our discussion will focus on the sub-elements credited to or contested by the appellant.

Operational Consideration 2.  As described by the PCS, the appellant’s Commissary maintains at least five service contracts (i.e., custodial, stocking, facility maintenance, pest control, linen, and refrigerator repair).  The appellant coordinates contract renewal and initiation by preparing and revising statements of work for use by contracting personnel, ensures acceptable contractor performance by overseeing the store’s two quality assurance positions, and personally serves as contracting officer’s technical representative for contracts.  Sub-element 2 is met.

Operational Consideration 4.  This sub-element is credited when the commissary conducts regular truckload sales three or four times per year, which requires an unusual amount of planning and scheduling on the part of management staff.

In general, commissaries prepare for and conduct various sales promotional events.  A case lot sale, the largest of such promotional events, involves 15 to 20 truckloads of products and multiple vendors.  This multiple-day event usually occurs on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and/or Sunday.  The appellant and supervisor confirmed that DeCA currently requires commissaries to host two case lot sales annually.  The appellant’s Commissary is scheduled to conduct its next case lot sale in May.  The event will require months-long preparation on the appellant’s part, including identifying the products and quantity to be sold, obtaining vendor support, coordinating delivery, determining placement and setup of stock, scheduling staff, and procuring tents.

Of lesser scope are truckload sales, which involve approximately 22 pallets of products and normally occur 10 to 12 times a year, and sidewalk sales, which involve approximately 10 to 15 pallets.  Truckload and sidewalk sales require similar preparation and coordination work as case lot sales, but on a smaller scale, such as identifying the products, obtaining vendor support, coordinating delivery, and determining product placement.  Truckload and sidewalk sale events involve a couple weeks or less of preparation.

The appellant states in his AAR comments to OPM:

We have the normal 2 truckload sales each year that the agency mandates and in addition, our store turns 54 truckloads of water during the year.  We also have 2 to 4 “Sidewalk” sales during the year that are supported with truckload quantities.  These sales are often located in the front of the store or between the commissary and Exchange.  This requires forklifts to move the product from the back of the store (22 pallets per truck) to the front.  Some of these sales are also support [sic] with tents from the vendors.  These sidewalk sales are also supported with giveaways, and other entertainment.

DeCA considers the number of case lot sales conducted by a store when determining whether the sub-element is creditable to a commissary officer position.  The Questionnaire submitted by the agency to OPM indicates the Commissary conducted no case lot sales 12 months prior to April 2014, thus concluding the appellant’s position fails to meet this sub-element.

In evaluating the appellant’s position, we considered all sales promotional events hosted at his Commissary to identify those events requiring the unusual amount of planning and scheduling on the part of management staff as required by the PCS for crediting of this particular sub-element.  Since the months-long preparation required of case lot sales meets the demand of an unusual amount of planning and scheduling placed on management staff and because his Commissary hosts only two such events annually, sub-element 4 is not met.

Operational Consideration 5.  This sub-element is credited when competition from neighboring (e.g., within a 30-minute drive) discount-type supermarkets requires the commissary officer to employ original and unique marketing techniques in order to maintain and/or increase the store’s customer base.  Though his store encounters competition from neighboring membership-only warehouse clubs and discount supermarkets, the appellant said he continues to post advertisements on bulletin boards and has not had to employ original or unique marketing techniques to minimize the impact of competition on his Commissary’s customer base.  Therefore, sub-element 5 is not met.

Operational Consideration 7.  This sub-element is credited when the agency’s requirement to stock certain mandatory items in all commissaries places an added level of complexity on the management of small commissaries because of the lack of adequate space.  The commissary officer must continually resolve conflicting issues between agency requirements and local customer preference regarding items stocked.  The appellant states he is constantly resolving space allocation issues as a result of the agency-mandated stock items, for example, by regularly changing the arrangement of the cereal and other sections.  With a sales floor spanning 37,361 square feet, his medium-to-large Commissary does not entail the same set of challenges and issues faced by a small commissary when dedicating space for mandated items.  Although recognizing that all stores regardless of size deal with space allocation issues, sub-element 7 is intended to credit commissary officer positions with the added level of complexity when resolving issues of lack of space inherent in a small commissary.  Sub-element 7 is not credited.

Operational Consideration 9.  This sub-element is credited when the commissary receives at least five deliveries from five separate distributors each day at least 5 days per week.

In addition to the 13 operational considerations described by the PCS, the agency’s supplemental classification standard identifies eight more operational considerations, numbering the sub-elements from 14 to 21.  Specifically, operational consideration 15 in the agency’s supplemental classification standard states:

[Direct Store Delivery (DSD)] and [Direct Store Delivery – Single Order (DSD-S)] deliveries reflect work volume and documentation complexities and affect inventory levels and accountability.  Credit is given when these receipts are greater than 300 for a two-week period not impacted by special events.

The agency explains its replacing of the PCS’s operational consideration 9 with operational consideration 15, stating in an email to OPM:

Operational Consideration #15 in the clarifying guidance captures the delivery information (ordering is now automated) and more accurately reflects the complexities created by multiple daily deliveries.  This gives us the information previously captured by Operational Consideration #9 when ordering was done without the benefit of automation.

As mentioned previously, we cannot evaluate the appellant’s position using DeCA’s supplemental classification standard to consider either the applicability of operational consideration 15 to his position[1] or the relevance of the agency’s sub-element over operational consideration 9.

The appellant’s Commissary receives various types of deliveries.  For example, DSD deliveries are from local vendors who visit the store to determine existing stock quantity and deliver the product needed (e.g., bread, soda, and chips).  DSD-S deliveries are store-generated orders faxed directly to the distributor or manufacturer for product delivery (e.g., milk, eggs, chicken, and ham).  In addition, frequent delivery system (FDS) deliveries are generated by an electronic ordering system where orders originate at the store level and are transmitted electronically to the distributor via agency headquarters.  FDS orders are placed daily on a computer-assisted ordering system to determine the product and quantity needed based on space, item movement, and shipping time.

The appellant seeks crediting his position with sub-element 9, stating in his appeal request to OPM:

Our store receives about 12 deliveries each day along with 2 FDS deliveries each day, a water truckload every 2 weeks and a supply truck every third week.  Our deliveries cover a 6 day delivery schedule.

In considering the various types of deliveries received by the Commissary, the immediate supervisor asserts the appellant’s estimate of total deliveries is low.  He instead states the Commissary receives, in addition to the 2 FDS deliveries, 20 to 25 DSD and DSD-S deliveries from multiple distributors of milk, bread, soda, magazine, ham, produce, etc.  In an email to OPM, the immediate supervisor further explains:

Between DSD and DSD-S in addition to the FDS deliveries, they are receiving more than 12 deliveries.  Some of the DSD vendors may have 4 different contracts.  Example, Lance has Crackers/Cookies as one, Pretzels on another contract, Potato Chips on another.  You have to figure 20 or more DSD/DSD-S deliveries plus the 2 FDS deliveries is appropriately 22 to 25 deliveries a day.

The appellant and immediate supervisor confirm the Commissary receives at least five deliveries from five separate distributors each day at least five days per week, as described by sub-element 9 in the PCS.  Thus, sub-element 9 is credited to the appellant’s position.

In addition to maintaining no supported function as described at Level B, the appellant’s Commissary is credited with meeting only two of the 13 operational considerations identified by the PCS (sub-elements 2 and 9).  Since it falls short of meeting the five operational considerations required at Level B, the appellant’s position is credited at Level A for 20 points.

Summary
Factor Level Points
I.  Scope of Operations B 100
II.  Complexity of Operations A 20
III.  Level of Managerial Responsibility B 40
Total 160

 

A total of 160 points falls within the GS-12 range (140 to 180) on the grade conversion table in the PCS.

Decision

The position is properly classified as Commissary Officer, GS-1144-12.


[1] The agency did not credit the appellant’s position with its operational consideration 15.  The Questionnaire submitted by the agency to OPM shows his Commissary has a total of 259 DSD and DSD-S deliveries received in a two-week period, which falls short of the 300 such deliveries required by the agency for crediting of sub-element 15.

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